Feeling nauseous in pregnancy is very common as there are lots of changes, especially hormonal changes, occurring in your body. Up to 80% of women experience some nausea and/or vomiting during their pregnancy, with 1-2% developing hyperemesis gravidarum – an extreme form sickness in pregnancy which can lead to severe dehydration and hospitalisation.
Nausea can occur at any time during your pregnancy and although it is often called “morning sickness”, it can happen at any time of the day or night. A few women may feel nauseous for their entire pregnancy, but the good news is that it usually disappears around 12-16 weeks of pregnancy.
Feeling nauseous during pregnancy is out of your control and, unfortunately, there is no quick fix cure. The important thing is to listen to your body. Try eating and drinking little and often, as this will keep up your fluid and energy levels, and rest as much as possible.
Don’t feel guilty if you are unable to complete everyday tasks or if you are too tired to do much exercise, it will most likely be for only a short period of time. You are not alone. At least 30% of women will need some time off work during their pregnancy due to nausea and vomiting.
Fortunately, there are self-help remedies that you can try before resorting to medicines or medical help.
How to help reduce feelings of nausea and vomiting:
- If you can predict the times that you may feel nauseous, try to eat something small, like a biscuit or rice-cake just before. This is not an instant cure, but it can help stave off those feelings.
- Ginger is known for its anti-nausea properties. Try ginger in different forms to see what you like and what helps you most. For example, you may enjoy chopped fresh ginger in hot water to drink or just to inhale the aroma, or you may prefer to nibble or suck on crystallised ginger or snack on some ginger biscuits. Ginger essential oil is also an effective remedy at relieving nausea.
- Bracelets for motion sickness can be bought from most chemists. These can work quite well for some women, as they act upon acupressure points on your wrist to prevent you from feeling nauseous.
- Lemon is not only a refreshing and welcome taste, but it is know to help soothe upset stomachs. Try a slice on a squeeze in some hot water. The effects of lemon essential oil are similar and using it in this form can also help tackle mental fatigue.
- Lack of sleep and not enough rest can make feelings of nausea seem worse, so include some planned relaxation time as an important part of your day.
- Sucking on lozenges made with ingredients known to help nausea, such as ginger, lemon or peppermint, can also help alleviate those nausea waves and get you through the day.
- Try to avoid rich, creamy or spicy foods that could take longer to digest or irritate your stomach. Eat lighter, blander foods in smaller portions, rather than large meals.
- Certain essential oils have anti-sickness properties that can be helpful, such as peppermint, lemon or ginger. You can put a few drops onto a tissue, apply to your skin mixed with a carrier oil (or use a ready-to-go rollerball), or enjoy the smells in your immediate environment by using a spritz or putting the oils in an oil burner or diffuser.
When to seek medical help for nausea and vomiting
- You have tried self-help remedies and nothing has eased your symptoms.
- If you are unable to keep down any food or fluids for 24-48 hours.
- You are not passing any or very little urine and it is dark in colour.
- You feel weak or faint and not able to stand up for any length of time.
Hyperemesis gravidarum is diagnosed when your health, wellbeing and ability to have a normal lifestyle are compromised due to the sickness and nausea you are experiencing. If you are admitted to hospital for treatment, a doctor will assess you and a plan of care will be made for your needs. Although treatments can temporarily relieve your symptoms, it is common for them to return.
You can expect to be offered anti-emetic (anti-sickness) medication via an injection until you can tolerate this in tablet form. There are several different ones available and there is usually one that will work for you. You may also be offered intravenous (IV) fluids if you are unable to keep food and water down. This involves inserting a needle (cannula) into your hand to deliver replacement fluid into your body. This will temporarily rehydrate you and make you feel much better, whilst the right medication is found to help ease your sickness.
Although no one likes to experience sickness and nausea, there are self-help remedies you can try, and your symptoms will more than likely ease off once you are beyond 12 weeks pregnant. Very few women will experience severe sickness and nausea but, if you do, medical help can enable you to manage those symptoms.